Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Roll Your Own Life (15) - Comic Sans

About time I got back to the history of my gaming life. This post diverges a little from the usual gaming stuff, but it's important as it lead to bigger things.

Howard the Duck
Issue 23 - Star Waaugh!
Ever since I was in school I loved drawing comics. I used to draw odd little adventures based on our gaming group as I mentioned before, chronicling our adventures in Star Frontiers, in a rather bad strip called Wormbusters. It wasn't great, and a lot of it drew heavily from what I'd been reading in Mad magazine or from a particularly ancient issue of Howard the Duck (the Star Wars parody issue... Yes, Family Guy, Howard beat you to it by about 30 years.). It was just something to draw while I was in the 6th form at school, and by incorporating as many people as I could from my classes, I had people clamouring to read it. It made a particularly unpopular kid at school remotely interesting for a brief period.

After school, I tried the RPG writing thing, but I still drew the odd comic strip here and there. I did a series of Wormbusters strips for the Hull Daily Mail (I don't think they ever used them though, but they did ask for them... It wasn't just me sending random crap to them, honest!) and I teamed up with Pete from the RPG group to produce a couple of comics that I may have mentioned before ("Drowning in Darkness" and "Ninja Secretaries from Beyond Dimension X") under the name Swampland Productions. Pete was the business and the writing, while I was the angst and the pencilling.

We advertised in Deadline magazine, got a little interest, and indie comics fanzine "Zum!" basically called me a "goth Herge", which I took as a huge compliment.

I thought this was the way to go, and as the day job at the council lead to my return to art college, I thought I'd focus on graphic novels and sequential art. However, comic art wasn't as favoured as it is now in the academic circles, so I didn't do the degree in Illustration as I'd planned - instead I did animation so that I could specialise in film storyboarding (I figured it was as close to comics as I could get). My degree film was like an animated comic strip, and my dissertation was comparing Frank Miller's A Dame to Kill For with classic film noir like Double Indemnity.

Comics had become everything. So much so that when I left art college, I applied to the Prince's Trust to start up my own comic publishing business - Autocratik Press. Surprisingly, they agreed and loaned me the money for my first print run for my comic "Missing".

Cover of Missing Issue 1,
Autocratik Press
"Missing" was basically a soap opera, set in a hotel at the border between Scotland and England, after England had become the 51st American State. It followed three or four plot lines about a suicidal girl escaping her abusive boyfriend, a group of surfing highwaymen who held up cars in the floodwaters, a gang who had kidnapped the daughter of the State senator, and other nonsense. It was trying really hard to be a new Twin Peaks in the near future. It did okay. My art was a bit sloppy, lettering was awful and done by hand, and after four issues my distribution said they'd given it a shot and it wasn't worth continuing, so I kinda gave up. It didn't make any money, but each issue paid for the next issue's print run, and I paid back the loan, but that was about it.
Promotional Postcard for Missing
More promotional
postcards for Missing

Page 90 of Missing
appeared in Issue 4
During this time I'd been going to comic conventions and chatting with some of the coolest indie comic creators around. Gary Spencer Millidge, Paul Grist, Paul Rainey, Martin Shipp, Marc Laming, Terry Wiley, David Moyes, and many more. It was a time when the UK indie comics scene was at its height, and creators were full of useful information to help each other out to get into the scene.

I wasn't going to give up. My art may have not been up to scratch, but I'd met someone who was awesome, and I offered to publish his new comic. D'Israeli had become a pretty recognisable name in the comics industry, inking Sandman, drawing Batman (there's a tale to tell there), and working for 2000AD (which he still does to this day). His work in Deadline (right next to our old Ninja Secretaries ad) on Timulo was a huge inspiration, and when he said he'd be happy to work together on publishing his next book "Consequences", I leapt at the chance.

D'Adventures of ISRAELI: Consequences
by Molly Eyre & D'Israeli
Part of his series "d'adventures of ISRAELI", it was amazing. Hit nuns, haddock, rocket launchers, everything. Genius.

I mean, just look at it. It's fantastic.

Below are some images from the comic that I put together for a promotional poster. The pics below are from the reverse filled with quotes from some of the big names in comics (Warren Ellis, Alan Grant, Andi Watson) all singing its praises. If you've never read a D'Israeli comic before, you're seriously missing out.

Click the pics, see them big!

Consequences Promotional Flyer page 1

Consequences Promotional
Flyer page 2

With a name like that, the distributors took note again, and I was almost back in business. Almost.

"Consequences" did okay, sold out and you can now find it in D'Israeli's complete Timulo collection "Timularo" here. But I'd just moved across the country, had no ideas, so I closed Autocratik Press down.

How does all this relate to gaming I hear you say? Well, a friend of mine called Jason knew I was a massive fan of The X-Files, and loaned me a copy of the Conspiracy X RPG. I read it and thought it would make an awesome comic, and set to contacting the producers of the game... Eden Studios...


Missing, Issue 4
As a reward for sitting through this massive piece of nostalgia, I've a handful of copies of issue 4 of Missing still sitting in my loft. It's a standalone issue, the art's not great, but they're just sitting there. The staples are a little rusty, but if you'd like one, send me an email to dave@autocratik.com - and I'll tell you how to get one.

Basically, all I'm asking is you like my Facebook page, spread the word, and send me some stamps to cover postage. I'll email you the details. First come, first served, one each, and I'll even sign them if you like. I've even got some of the limited promo postcards, posters for "Consequences" and stuff like that.

Until next time, stay multi-classy!

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